Keep Your Identity to Yourself

By Eric Andring, Information Security Officer, Bell State Bank & Trust

Based on past and recent news events, the terms “Data Breach” and “Identify Theft” have unfortunately become more familiar and concerning for everyone.  As part of our Security Awareness efforts, we are providing security tips to help you reduce the risk of identity theft.  Identity theft occurs when personal information such as your Social Security number or banking information is taken without permission and is used to commit crimes or fraud.

Offline Identity Theft Protection Tips

  • Keep your billing and banking statements and other personal records secured and shred them when no longer needed.
  • Keep your confidential information to yourself.  Never respond to text messages, phone calls or emails asking to confirm your personal information.  Don’t leave PIN numbers, passwords or other personal information around for others to see.
  • If you choose to follow up with the sender about a concerning message you have received, don’t use the phone number provided as it may be fraudulent.  Always use a phone number that has been verified from a source you know and trust before making contact.
  • Practice secure postal mail practices. Use a public mailbox rather than your home mailbox to send payments and other mail containing sensitive information. Pick your mail up promptly and ask the post office to hold your mail while away.
  • Review your bills and bank statements promptly. If you find any charges or debits that you didn’t make, contact Bell State Bank & Trust at 701-298-1550, or the company immediately.
  • Protect your Social Security number. Don’t carry your Social Security card or other cards that have your Social Security number on them unless you are going somewhere where you will need them. Only provide your Social Security number when there is a legitimate need to do so.
  • We recommend that you monitor your credit report for unauthorized activity. You are entitled to receive a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months. Request a report by visiting the official government site,, or by calling 877-322-8228.

Online Identity Theft Protection Tips

  • Keep your system up-to-date.  Most security software can automatically update.  Set your operating system and security software to automatically update to ensure it can defend against the latest threats.
  • Ensure the website is secure when you provide financial or other sensitive information online. The website address should change from “http” to “https”. A lock symbol may also indicate that the website is safe.
  • Create unique usernames for online activity and avoid using the same password for many accounts because if the password is stolen, it can be used to take over all your accounts with the same password.  Use long passwords with a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters to make it more difficult to compromise the password.
  • Beware of Spam or phishing emails.If any of the information sent to you seems suspicious, it is a good idea to contact the sender directly for verification before opening any attachments or clicking on any links. If you are unsure, it is usually best to delete the message.
  • Monitor your accounts online frequently. You can discover problems online much faster than if you wait for bills or statements to be delivered by mail.
  • Sign up for Account Alerts: Set up Email and Text Alerts to stay up-to-date on all of your account activity. When purchases or withdrawals are made, you’ll know about them almost immediately. To sign up, log in to personal online banking and click on the “Mobile & Alerts” tab.

To read more about protecting yourself from identity theft, the following websites are great resources:

  • The Federal Trade Commission sponsors a website called This website provides practical tips from the federal government and the technology industry to help you be on guard against online fraud, secure your computer and protect your personal information.
  • Consumer Federation of America’s website contains helpful consumer protection tips including how to avoid identity theft.
  • The Department of Homeland Security, the National Cyber Security Alliance and the Anti-Phishing Working Group partner together to provide Cyber Security tips and best practices.

What If It Happens to You?

If you are a Bell State Bank & Trust personal checking customer, and you believe you have fallen victim to fraud or identity theft, contact any Bell State Bank & Trust location. You are automatically covered with our FREE Identity Theft Recovery Program! This program covers any identity theft, such as fraudulent use of your name, Social Security number, bank account, any credit/debit card, or other identifying information—even of non-Bell State Bank accounts and credit cards—with up to $10,000 ID theft expense reimbursement insurance. Plus, a FREE Personal Recovery Advocate assigned to you will manage your recovery plan and contact banks, credit card companies and agencies such as the DMV, Social Security and the U.S. Post Office for you, working on your behalf for as long as it takes to recover your good name.




6 Responses to this post...

  • Dean Baker on May 5, 2014 at 10:41 am #

    Thanks for the info. It was helpful.

  • jlarson on May 5, 2014 at 1:15 pm #

    Thank you for your feedback. Identity theft protection is very important to us.

  • David Sandbeck on May 5, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

    Useful information that I’ll share with friends.

  • jlarson on May 5, 2014 at 2:33 pm #


    This is great information to share with friends!

  • Monica Thunstrom on May 5, 2014 at 6:30 pm #

    Thanks for the very useful information! Sure glad that we have Bell State Bank & Trust on OUR side.

  • jlarson on May 6, 2014 at 2:47 pm #


    You are very welcome!

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